Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Hausfrau's Vacation Update

Team Hausfrau has just returned from a journey to the promised land vacation in New Jersey. I took the girls with me by myself on Tuesday and drove to Central New Jersey. (NOTE: To all of you who are well aware of my trip with the girls, you may skip down to the next paragraph. I can just hear the collective sighs and the, "Jesus H. CHRIST, will someone tell her ENOUGH already?! Thank you.) The trip took 12 hours. Four of those hours consisted of a solid performance of screaming by Peaches, coupled with crying from Baby Girl because of said screaming. I thought I would die.

Some of you may be asking why I did it. I did it because my friend Amy did it with her kids when she came to visit me a few months ago. She left at 4 in the morning and her children slept happily in her car. They were well-behaved, ate, watched movies and I think they sang, too. I, too left at 4 in the morning. Unfortunately, my little buttercups didn't sleep. We were doing well until I hit Columbus, Ohio (it's only 90 minutes from home!) and headed due east into the blinding sun that came streaming into all of the windows of my vehicle. It quickly went downhill from there. Ultimately, I made only two stops. I went into towns with a Walmart near the highways(St. Clairsville, OH and Carlisle, PA) and let the children run around like freaks up and down the aisles for 30 minutes and then would feed them at the McDonald's inside the stores. That seemed to work well. What DIDN'T work well was my attempt to emulate Amy's "peeing in a diaper so you don't have to go to a public restroom with two wild children who like to touch stuff" thing. See, Amy has this great way of being able to take care of business without having to leave her car by using one of her son's diapers and a plastic container for easy disposal. My attempt did not work so well. I think it helps if you are a size two. I also don't think my windows are tinted enough. I couldn't help but think someone was going to drive by, see me sitting at the wheel and say, "Yep, she's peeing into a diaper." I believe that on my next big trip I will slap on a Depends and call it a day.

New Jersey was an absolute blast. We spent the first 5 days with our friends Amy and Michael and their adorable children (who travel well!). The kids wore themselves out by playing hard each and every day. The weather was gorgeous so we went to several parks and lots of picnics:

By 7:15 every night the kids were all in bed and we would fall into chairs outside and relax. And then we would fall into our beds in exhausted heaps.

Herr flew in on Friday afternoon. He had spent the week keeping our house clean for NO ONE to come and look at our house (It's for sale. On Realtor.com. Virtual tour and everything! Email me if you want to buy it.) He also didn't want to take any vacation days since he wants to be paid for them when his employers kicks him to the curb on June 30. Don't feel too sorry for Herr. Technically every single day at work is now a vacation since he doesn't actually work. He rolls in around 9:00 ish and spends a couple of hours searching for the end of the internet (his latest report is that he is close.) Then he goes and works out at the company gym, eats lunch, goes back to his desk for an hour to look at houses on Realtor.com that we may or may not be able to afford in the Easton, PA/Western NJ area. Lately, he has been home by 2:30 pm. No lie. Who WOULDN'T want to stay home and do that?! At any rate, we spent one more night with our friends eating, drinking, and pondering our childrens' futures. It was great.

On Saturday we said our goodbyes and headed to Merchantville, NJ, which is right next to Cherry Hill, which is just outside of Philadelphia. The entire reason we came out to New Jersey was for our friends who host an annual Horse Track party at Monmouth Race Track. Our friends Lisa and Albert rent a grove and have boatloads of family, friends, food and drink. Four families stay at Lisa and Albert's house that weekend. With kids, it totalled 17 people in their house. You have to realize that Lisa and Albert live a very quiet and unassuming life in a quiet and unassuming neighborhood. Then there is that one weekend a year when the neighbors look out their windows and see all of these people streaming out of their house around 10:30 Sunday morning to head to the track. I am sure it probably looks not unlike a clown car.

The event, as always, was a blast. The food was great. I distinctly remember some brownie cookies and bacon wrapped pretzel rods that were then dipped into something sweet. I don't believe there were any huge winners at the party this year. Last year, our friend Jenny won $1100 and one of Lisa's friends won $8K on the last race. While Herr and I are never huge winners, I was CLEARLY not playing my A-Game. We won nothing. We spent nearly the entire time chasing Peaches, who kept trying to sneak out of the grove with her stroller, no doubt to look for a newer, nicer family. As a result, I haphazardly placed my bets instead of studying the names of the horses and deciding which name I liked the most. The winner of the $8K was nice enough to host a little contest at the party. There was a jar of coins for all of us to guess the amount. The winner won an iPod Nano. I thought that was really nice, especially since Jenny took her winnings and went to Italy. She did call us from Florence while we were at the track, which was pretty cool.

The evenings were spent hanging out eating, drinking and playing poker. Baby Girl was old enough to really play with the big kids this year, which was so cool to watch. The kids had flashlights and went searching for bears they had seen in the yard. She just seemed so much older this weekend. Don't get me wrong--we still had temper tantrums over really stupid stuff, but she was in heaven.

I had been dreading the drive home, but it ended up being fine. All of the construction I had encountered on the PA Turnpike earlier in the week had been cleared away for holiday traffic which shaved an hour off of our trip.

Now, before you get all worked up about how I took this picture, relax. It was no different than someone driving and talking on a cell phone. Or driving and rooting around on the seat next to you to find the quarter you lost for the toll. Truth be told, I took a ton of photos and this was the best one.

So now we are back in Ohio, waiting around for someone to buy our house so that we can move back to NJ. I am also trying to plan my next trip taking place in a few weeks. I do believe I may fly.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

And There Will be Dancing in the Streets

After 25 days, three trips to the doctor, one trip to the hospital, 225+ diapers with accompanying grocery bags, one tube of Butt Paste, four tubes of A&D Ointment, two bottles of Mylanta, three ruined outfits, one ruined pair of shoes, a gallon of bleach, and a case and a half of Costco baby wipes, Peaches no longer has diarrhea.

Our garbage man will be thrilled.

Monday, May 15, 2006

LaPorte, Indiana

My mother, who was the unofficial keeper of all family mementos, spent a couple of years sorting the vast amount of photos, letters, pieces of crystal, linens and knick-knacks after we convinced her to sell her house. My sister and I did what we could do to help her, by locating distant relatives and mailing things to them, hoping they would appreciate the gesture.

After we had exhausted all of our resources, there were still hundreds of photographs of my family. I happily took them, with grand plans to put them into some sort of order and perhaps self-publish a book for our family. I managed to frame a few, but reality quickly set in what with the birth of my second daughter and our knack of moving every damn year. The countless photos I have are boxed and in the basement, waiting for me to look at them. One picture is a HUGE framed portrait of my great-busia on her wedding day. I have never seen a woman look so pissed off on her wedding day. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that it was found about 65 years later in the attic of her house wedged in the eaves. Apparently she stuck it there after he left her. The intricately carved wood frame is disinegrating and I fear the photo has adhered to the glass. I think I will have to call the professionals in for that one. Another day, another project I have yet to start.

Herr showed me a review of the book, LaPorte, Indiana in the Wall Street Journal last week.
Jason Bitner, one of the co-founders of one of my favorite websites and magazines, Found stopped by a diner in LaPorte, Indiana a couple of years ago. He became interested in some old photographs that were in the back of the diner for sale. He found out that it had once been a photography studio and there were thousands of photos in the back. Apparently, Frank Pease, the photographer, couldn't bear to get rid of the photos. After Frank died, the photos were forgotten, the building sold. Several years ago, the photos were found in the building. The back of the diner now has a room where the photos can be looked through and purchased. Jason spent several days looking through the 18,000 photographs and chose the ones he wanted for this book.

I have not been able to stop looking at these photos since I got my copy of the book. The black and white photos are of babies, older children, high school seniors and couples. There's a nurse in a very stately uniform. There are side by side photos of a little girl and an elderly woman who are both wearing the same horn-rimmed glasses. There are soldiers and a baton twirler. Some of the photos are silly. Some are sad. It is apparent that many of these people were clearly uncomfortable having their pictures taken. Some were naturals. One thing all of the photographs possess is sincerity.

My primary interest in buying this book is that LaPorte is my hometown. No one has ever heard of LaPorte. Not too many people go there unless they are passing through to go to Chicago, South Bend or Lake Michigan. It is a town that went from being a very prosperous place when I was a child, to a town that is struggling and dying in a lot of ways now. While I would never besmirch my hometown, I am always sad when I drive around and see how it has changed. When I look at the people in this book, I see people who were part of what is good about my hometown.

I keep looking at the photos and thinking that I recognize some of the people. One picture startled Herr and I because it looked exactly like my Uncle Linko. Maybe it is. Part of the allure of this book is that there are no names attached to the photos. So someone from anywhere else could look through this book and think they recognize a person in a photograph. I was most struck by the next to the last photo in the book. It is of two elderly men. One man is fixing the other man's tie. He is concentrating deeply, brow furrowed. The other man is gaze upward with an unreadable expression. If you look closer, one of the men is wearing a plaid blazer with a flannel work shirt and a black bow-tie. He also appears to have a really bad toupe. But all the fashion faux pas aside, he looks so dignified.

After getting this book, I am now feeling motivated to do something with all of the photos in the basement. My family has such an incredible history. Too bad we just put the house up for sale on Saturday. I guess I will wait until after the move back to the East Coast. Another day, another project.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

My Daughter, The Girlie-Girl

This Morning...

"Mommy, can we live in a pink house when we move?"
"I don't think so, Sweetie."
"But, but, but, whyyyyyyyyy? I LOVE pink."
"I know you do, Baby Girl, I know."

Later, in the sand box...

"Arggghhh, Mommy, let's dig for buried treasure!"

Digging, digging, digging.

"Mommy! I found sumpin!"
"What could it be?"
"Ohhhh, it's buried treasure Mommy!
"What's in the box?"
"Pretty dresses for everybody! Here's one for you, Mommy! Arghhhh!"

At the lunch table...

"Mommy, may I please have some graham crackers?"
"You may, just as soon as you finish your carrots."
Sigh "No thanks. They don't match my dress."

After lunch...

"Mommy, I want to be a long princess."
"What is a long princess?
"She's, she's, she's TALL!"

Still later...

"Wow Mommy, I looooove your pink fingernails."
"Thanks, Baby Girl. It's Play-Doh under my fingernails from earlier this morning."
"Oh. Hey Mommy? Can we play Play-Doh again?"

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Fifteen Months!

Wow Peaches, it's hard to believe that you are a ripe ol' 15 months of age. You've really come a long way since your first birthday. You are now running and climbing, which is a source of constant worry since you have taken quite a few spills. You are also putting everything in your mouth that isn't bolted down. We really need to work on that.

It's been cool to realize over the past few weeks that you understand more words than, "NO PEACHES!" or "NO BITE, PEACHES!" or "NO TOUCH, PEACHES!" When I set you down and tell you to go get your sister, or your grandma or one of the dogs, you go staight to them. You don't really say "mama" or "dada" but you can say, "go go go" like nobody's business.

You are hearing me say, "You're lucky you're cute" quite frequently. It's true. It has been apparent for months that you are going to be trouble and that you will use your cuteness to get out of said trouble. But don't worry. I'm onto you. And about that bottle? It will be no more. No matter how cute it looks dangling from your teeth.

Monday, May 01, 2006


I was flattered when Kara from Cape Buffalo invited me to write about Motherhood in honor of Mother's Day. Then I looked at the list of people she asked to be a part of the project throughout the month, and I became quite intimidated. I am sure most of them write for a living ( but claim to have other vocations,) they are really that good. Go on, read them. I am sure there will be several posts that you won't be able to get through without Kleenex. I am sure a few will be quite funny. I don't think a single one will be boring--we're talking about Moms here!

It has only been since I have been married that my mother and I have accepted each other’s differences and become friendly. It hasn’t been easy—that’s for sure. My mother is the most stubborn and inflexible person I know, and any relative in my family will back me up (they are quiet about it though—they are all afraid of her.) She lies about her health and finances because she doesn’t want to “bother” us. She swears like a sailor. She drinks too much, smokes too much, and doesn’t eat right. There is only one way to skin a cat in my mother’s world, and it’s HER way. On the very best of days, our relationship can be really difficult. On the worst of days, she is a colossal pain in the ass and I thank God that she isn't my birth mother. And then I curse God for allowing my adoption into this family to have taken place. As a child, I always thought that when it came to me, my mother was mean, judgmental, stifling and regretful of adopting me. Over the years, I slowly learned the truth. My mother, herself, was stifled and afflicted with abuse as a child, leaving it very difficult for her to give and receive love gracefully. Her love, however, could be seen in the orchard, two gardens, several flowerbeds, and the 4 acres of well-clipped lawn at my childhood home. My mother’s horticultural endeavors were the one thing that remained constant in her life for so long.

I remember as a child hearing all kinds of stories of how Mom used to steal flowers from the neighbors and try to replant them in my Gramma’s yard. Gramma didn’t have time for such silliness since she worked three jobs to raise her four children without a husband. Mom didn’t realize that the roots of plants are necessary in order to transplant. Sixty years later, my mother knows EVERYTHING about flowers (and plants! and trees! and shrubs!) From the time I was old enough to know what a weed was until I moved out of the house at eighteen, the two words that ruined my life were “yard day!” That meant that my sister and I had to weed the ever-growing population of foliage in our yard. Did I mention there were 4 acres? My sister and I would cry, complain, and even accuse her of abuse. Her response was always, “Tough shit. Do what you’re told.” I would sob about how much my life sucked because I had to work so hard. I never bothered to notice that my mother was working much harder and longer than I ever did.

My mother dropped out of high school at 16. She married my father at 20 and lived a very comfortable life because my father was one of only three electricians to service all of the steel mills in Gary, Indiana. After three miscarriages, my parents found out that my mother had endometriosis and would never be able to bear children. First, my sister was adopted in 1967. I was adopted in 1969. They built a beautiful ranch home and started to reap the rewards of the middle class dream. The only mistake my father made was not checking a box and signing his name to part of the mortgage that would continue house payments if he became permanently disabled. He thought he would always be healthy.

When I was six years old, my father became one of the first quadruple bypass surgery patients in the country at the age of 41. He ended up being disabled for the rest of his life. After his open-heart surgery, the insurance company cancelled his plan and refused to pay for the then-experimental procedure. This left our family in a huge bind. Without a diploma or marketable skills my mother had no idea how to support a sick husband, two kids, and pay a mortgage. I remember a lot of crying when Dad was sleeping in their bedroom. Almost every day, my mom would spend hours outside. When it rained, she would go into the garage and tend to her little seedlings and saplings, and repot indoor plants. When a new family member was born, she’d plant a new fruit tree in the orchard and name it after the baby (My tree was a McIntosh Apple.)

After awhile, car after car pulled up into our driveway and people started buying what Mom was growing. The Chrysanthemums and Shasta Daisies kept food on the table. The apples, peaches, pears and cherries paid for my sister’s thrice-weekly trips to an allergist almost an hour away. My mother’s African Violets paid for the mortgage on the house, and the fresh and canned vegetables and fruit kept us well fed.

Over the years, my mother went to school to learn bookkeeping and worked for a friend. Even though my sister and I were long gone, she still would break her back working long hours at her job and then work outside until she couldn’t see. A few years after I got married, my father took a turn for the worse. He had a heart transplant during my last semester in college, but he was starting to have so many other problems. In between hospital stays, my mother would still continue to work in the yard. After my father died, my mother tried to take care of the house and the yard, but it was too overwhelming. She was having her own medical problems and was drinking too much. My sister and I begged her to sell the place after she had lung surgery. She was drowning in debt and the once-beautiful yard was in shambles.

Mom finally agreed to sell the house. I thought she would die from the sadness. She has since been living in an apartment complex for the elderly. She calls it, “the place where people go to die if they don’t go to a nursing home first.” Her apartment is tiny and filled with boxes of paperwork. She uses a hall closet to store food. The shelving in the closet broke a long time ago from the weight of the canned goods, so she now has jars and cans on the hallway floor. We have attempted to replace the shelving but she insists that a friend is “building shelves as we speak.” There are also plants. Everywhere. She desperately wants to leave, but there aren’t too many affordable options for her since she has no retirement nest egg. We also have concerns about her ability to care for herself due to the scary-strong pain killers she occasionally has to take because the wounds from her lung surgery have never healed. We have all but begged her to live with us, but she refuses. My mother fears that we would hate her if she lived with us. I am considering a different approach with our impending move. I am going to tell her I want to hire her to be my landscape architect. I truly feel she needs a project that will make her feel useful and proud. Her flowers gave her the power to cultivate beauty and keep her at peace with herself. I would love for her to have that again.